Courses

Boldface letters in parentheses after the course descriptions refer to the program requirements that a course fulfills: (A) gateway, (B) fiction, (C) poetry, (D) drama, (E) pre-1650, (F) 1650–1830, (G) 1830–1940, and (H) literary or critical theory. This applies to undergraduate courses only.

Imagining Futures: Speculative Design and Social Justice

Winter 2016-2017

21110 / 31110

Patrick Jagoda; Thenmozhi Soundararajan

This experimental course seeks to disrupt dominant narratives about “the future”: a monolithic concept that often comes from technologists and policymakers. Instead, we explore what alternative futures might look like when imagined by and with marginalized communities. Beginning with movements such as Afrofuturism, we will read speculative and science fiction across media, including short stories, critical theory, novels, films, transmedia narratives, and digital games. Rather than merely analyzing or theorizing various futures, this course will prepare students in hands-on methods of “speculative design” and “critical making.” Instead of traditional midterm essays and final research papers, the work of the course will consist primarily of blog responses to shared readings, coupled with short-form, theoretically-founded, and collaborative art projects. These projects will imagine alternative futures of climate change, gender, public health, finance, policing, and labor. The work will be challenging, transdisciplinary, and will blur expectations about the relationship between theory and practice at every turn. As such, it is not a course for the craven; it is a course for students who wish to explore the complexities of collaboration and the sociopolitical possibilities of art. Undergraduate: (B, H) Graduate: (20th/21st)

Marxism and Modern Culture

Spring 2016-2017

32300

Loren Kruger

This course covers the classics in the field of marxist social theory (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, Reich, Lukacs, Fanon) as well as key figures in the development of Marxist aesthetics (Adorno, Benjamin, Brecht, Marcuse, Williams) and recent developments in Marxist critiques of new media, post-colonial theory and other contemporary topics. It is suitable for graduate students in literature depts. and art history. It is not suitable for students in the social sciences. (20th/21st)

War and Peace

Autumn 2016-2017

28912 / 32302

William Nickell

Written in the wake of the Crimean War (1856) and the emancipation of the serfs (1861), Tolstoy's War and Peace represents Russia's most important national narrative. Tolstoy chooses to set his tale during the Napoleonic wars, the epoch commonly regarded as the moment of national awakening, which gave rise to major social and political transformations within the Russian society that were still underway at the time when Tolstoy wrote and published his epic. Reading War and Peace we not only learn a lot about Russian history and culture, but also have a rare chance to visit the writer's workshop and witness the creation of a completely original, organic work of art. It is a telling fact that Tolstoy's novel-epic-a unique hybrid of several different genres deliberately designed as a riposte to the typical West European novel - was never finalized, because after publishing this work in a serial form in a leading "thick journal" Tolstoy continued to return to War and Peace throughout the rest of his life. This course will focus on both the artistic and intellectual facets of War and Peace. This course is recommended for students interested in Russian and European literature, history and political science as well as those who are building a Fundamentals major. The course is open to all undergraduates and some graduate students (by consent). Reading, discussion and papers will be in English. Undergraduate: (B, G, H)

Virtual Theaters

Winter 2016-2017

32312

John Muse

This course probes the nature and limits of theater by exploring a range of theatrical texts whose relation to performances are either partially or fully virtual. Like the works we will read, the course transgresses disciplinary, generic, and temporal boundaries, bringing together from various centuries philosophical dialogues (Plato), closet dramas, novel chapters in dramatic form (Melville’s Moby-Dick, Joyce’s Ulysses), radio drama, nonsense drama, and new media forms that test conventional definitions of theatrical performance: twitter theater, digital theater, algorithmic theater, and transmedia games. (20th/21st)

Alternate Reality Games: Theory and Production

Autumn 2016-2017

25970 / 32314

Patrick Jagoda; Heidi Coleman

This experimental course explores the emerging genre of “alternate reality” or “transmedia” gaming. Throughout the quarter, we will approach new media theory through the history, aesthetics, and design of transmedia games. For all of their novelty, these games build on the narrative strategies of novels, the performative role-playing of theater, the branching techniques of electronic literature, the procedural qualities of videogames, and the team dynamics of sports. Beyond the subject matter, this course is a springboard for transforming the 2017 orientation for the incoming class of approximately 1,500 first-year students into an Alternate Reality Game. Students in this course, thus, will not only be learning how to design a game but also contributing directly to the research and construction of this large-scale project. Building on this interdisciplinary research, we intend to design the University of Chicago orientation as a game that might help undergraduate students acclimate to the university setting and develop capacities linked to collaboration, leadership, and twenty-first century literacies. In particular, we are interested in discovering how interactive and participatory learning methods, which are central to the form of games, might help university students discuss and better understand complicated issues of inclusivity, diversity, and safety. To apply, submit writing through online form at http://bigproblems.uchicago.edu. Undergraduate: (H) Graduate: (20th/21st)

True Crime

Winter 2016-2017

23350 / 32350

Deborah L. Nelson

Beginning first with a history of the genre, the course will focus on the post45 era beginning with celebrity criminal and writer, Charyl Chessman. We will read classics like In Cold Blood, and yes, at 1,000 pages+, The Executioner’s Song, and works of extraordinary commercial success, like Ann Rule’s Stranger Beside Me. We will also most likely look at true crime on the radio and on film. To aid us in our reflections, we will read scholars and critics like Mark Seltzer, Karen Haltunnen, and Janet Malcolm among others. Graduate: (20th/21st)

Comedy Central

Autumn 2016-2017

32407

Lauren Berlant; Zachary Cahill

Comedy is a serious subject and art is no laughing matter, but levity displays a type of intelligence that is both profound and nimble and must be met on its own terms. Toward that end, this interdisciplinary seminar will investigate: the various modes through which comedy infects contemporary art, questions of form in the art of comedy, performative objects, the object of comedic performance, and the seriousness of play. Prerequisite: Consent of instructor(s) required; English and DOVA students will have priority. (20th/21st)

Science Fiction: Theories and Origins

Autumn 2016-2017

32550

Benjamin Morgan

This seminar explores the history and theory of science fiction, focusing on the moment of its modern emergence from Jules Verne to H.G. Wells. In historical terms, we will understand the speculative fictions, utopias, and alternative histories of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries as approaching questions posed by the natural and physical sciences: how could one imagine the possibility that humans might degenerate or go extinct, that the sun and earth would someday freeze, that years were to be measured at the scale of millions? We will also explore the political significance of early science fiction, which denaturalized the progress of technology, the organization of labor, and notions of gender, often taking on challenging political questions far more explicitly than the realist novel. As we address these questions, we will examine some of the ways in which literary scholars and cultural critics have developed theories and historical narratives to account for the emergence, formal features, and political significance of science fiction. Literary works may include novels and stories by Samuel Butler, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, H.G. Wells, Edwin Abbott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Morris, and Edward Bellamy. We will also read work by Fredric Jameson, Darko Suvin, and Raymond Williams. (18th/19th)

Autobiography

Spring 2016-2017

32706

Deborah L. Nelson

This course will look at experimental autobiographies such as Berryman’s Dream Songs, Lordeis Zami, Nabokov’s Speak Memory, Millet’s Loony Bin Trip, Hejinian’s My Life, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Maus. We will ask how these autobiographies shape postmodern theories of identity as well as how these theories have influenced self-representation. (20th/21st)

Animal Stories

Winter 2016-2017

23303 / 33303

Esther Peters

This course will explore the depiction of animals and the broader concept of animality in Central and East European Literature. We begin with an introduction to the history of literary depictions of animals in Aesop’s Fables, Herder’s “On Image, Poetry, and Fable,” and Tolstoy’s “Kholstomer -- The Story of a Horse.” Franz Kafka‘s stories--such as “The Metamorphosis” and  “Report to an Academy”--will provide an introduction to the main issues of animality: animal conflict and violence, as in Karel Čapek’s War with the Newts; animal hybridity or transformation, as in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog; animal engagement speech and writing, as in Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman.”  Other authors include Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Bruno Schulz and Georgi Gospodinov. In addition to exploring the depictions of animals through close readings of the literary texts, the course will also engage with  major philosophical thinkers whose work touches upon animilaty, including: Jacob von Uexküll, Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, Gilles Deleuze, and Jaques Derrida.

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